Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense


2004’s Catwoman was really bad

I was going to title this post “Halle Berry’s Catwoman was really bad” but I really didn’t want to blame Halle Berry for it.

I just watched the last 30 minutes or so of the movie on HBO and it reminded how how incredibly awful it was. The story itself… not so bad. Everything else… horrid.

The lighting is off. The camera angles are jarring and seemingly random. The writing seems like it was written by a 14-year-old comic book freak. The acting is even really, really bad… but that could be because of the writing. Some lines can’t be well-delivered no matter how good the actor.

There are times when Halle Berry does a great job being cat-like… expressions, movement, etc. But most of the time, it’s just over the top.

…like she’s possessed by Jim Carrey.


Splice… What’s the worst that could happen?

Splice - Dren and Elsa Ever since I saw the trailer for the movie Splice, I’ve been looking forward to its arrival. It’s been on my calendar with the appropriate emailed reminders.

Well, I just got back from seeing it and, in my opinion, it was well worth the wait. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley were believable and each played the necessary emotional range with skill and clarity… which is probably what made the movie so engaging.

Brody and Polley play Clive and Elsa, two genetic scientists specializing in gene splicing. They’ve created a couple unique creatures that produce a protein used to treat diseases in livestock and have earned an almost rock-star reputation within their company. When the company threatens to shut down their operation (for reasons left out of this review so as not to spoil anything), they decide to wade into the land of questionable ethics and use human DNA in their next (secret) splicing project… just to see if they can.

Splice - Dren and Elsa As expected, things get out of hand and the ensuing interactions between Clive, Elsa, and Dren (the "creature," played brilliantly by Delphine Chaneac) get more and more complex, dangerous, and dramatic.

It’s tough to say much more without adding a few spoilers, but suffice it to say that Clive and Elsa learn the meaning of the phrase "What’s the worst that could happen?" …and each stage of "worst" grows out of the previous stage as both Clive and Elsa rationalize their way past each successive breach of ethics.

Splice is all at once endearing, creepy, suspenseful, shocking, touching, and terrifying… with a touch of "gross" thrown in to top it all off. The story has elements of Frankenstein, Jurassic Park, and Species, but keeps its own identity with its tight acting, clean writing, and great directing.

And for the record… rabbits aren’t a vegetable. *

* go see the movie

Iron Baby

Somebody knows how to do their special effects with style. This is really well done.

Avatar in 3D… and 3D

Last week, I saw Avatar at our local theater in 3D. It wasn’t an IMAX theater, so the 3D technology was RealD. Yesterday, I saw it at an IMAX theater in 3D. I’m not sure if it was projected using a different 3D technology or not, but I did notice a significant difference between my first viewing in a regular 3D theater.

The first thing I noticed was that the glasses were different. In the RealD theater, the glasses come individually wrapped and they look very much like normal sunglasses (cheap ones, but normal) with hard plastic lenses. The glasses in the IMAX theater were larger, cheaper glasses with dark plastic film lenses. One of my friends had to exchange his because they were badly smudged, which makes me wonder if the glasses are just tossed the back in a bin after the movie without being checked or cleaned. The glasses reminded me of the kind you’d find at a 3D show at Hershey’s Chocolate World or a Disney park. I was worried because I’ve had bad experiences in those theaters.

Once the movie started, I was glad to see that the 3D effects looked perfect. The images were crisp and the depth was exactly as expected. I had no trouble focusing on the 3D without any visual freak-outs (that’s the technical term).

What was significantly different was the brightness of the image. I don’t know if it was the theater or if it was the 3D technology or my seat location, but the IMAX image was much darker than the image in the normal theater… like viewing a movie while wearing sunglasses. Some of the finer image detail was lost.

Again, I don’t know if it was the 3D technology or some other factor, but viewing the movie in a normal theater using RealD technology was a better experience for me. The brighter image (like a normal movie) really brought out small details in the image that enhanced the movie for me.

Now, just to clarify… the IMAX experience was also awesome. The movie is visually spectacular (bright or not) and the story is good, so it’s an easy movie to love and I’d be happy to go see it a third time if the opportunity presents itself. Given the choice, however, I’d go to a normal RealD theater.

Actually, given the choice, I’d go to Pandora.

You have the manners of a goat! *

So many  movies, so little time! I’m a movie fan. I always have been. Not only do I enjoy watching movies on DVD at home, but I’m a big fan of going to movies at theaters, too. While some folks blast the theater experience as too expensive, too grimy (or sticky), too tedious, and way too social, I revel in seeing the latest blockbusters on the big screen with all the explosions and Dolby-enhanced wooshes and grandiose, in-your-face visuals.

Granted, there’s a lot to be said for having your own home theater with a big screen in front of you, fresh popcorn beside you, and your nice, comfy couch cradling your backside while you watch giant robots battling it out to save the Earth… or Bryan Mills throat-punching the bad guys without breaking a sweat to save his abducted daughter… or Inigo Montoya finally getting his well-aged revenge on Count Rugen with the deliciously vicious line, “I want my father back, you son of a bitch!” For one thing, you can hit pause and get up to go to the bathroom and avoid missing out on a critical bit of exposition… like when the Architect explains to Neo the history of the Matrix is, how it works, and how he’s going to pick one of two doors… so when you come back from the bathroom, you don’t have an overwhelming feeling of complete and bewildering confusion about just what the hell is going on (don’t ask).

But in spite of the expense and inconvenience, I still love going to a real theater. The only things that bother me about the experience are getting there late (which means any time later than 20 minutes before the movie’s start time) and rude, inconsiderate, or oblivious people. I can generally avoid the lateness, since it’s something I can control, but controlling the people… not so much.

Turn off the damn phone! It’s good for me, really. Much like a vaccine, exposure to rude people helps me build up a tolerance and, eventually, an immunity to their shenanigans. While that works and holds true in the vast majority of my life, movie theater rudeness is like a viral Achilles heel for me. Inconsiderate behavior in the theater during the movie acts like a homing beacon that becomes the involuntarily focus of my aural attention to the point of causing teeth grinding, blood pressure raising, and subtle, yet uncontrollable, muscular twitching.

I’m pretty non-confrontational by nature, so it takes a lot of of steady, aggravating stabbity-stabs of inconsideration to spur me to action. During a viewing of Pixar’s Up, I actually turned around and glared at an offending woman, but the burning derision from my hate-filled, optical <airquote> lasers <airquote> was nullified by those damned, polarized 3D glasses. My sister, on the other hand, can effortlessly turn around and issue a withering statement like, “Excuse me, but we are not in your living room!”… while her husband winces and sinks lower into his seat.

So, in the grand tradition of non-confrontational cowardice, I hereby offer my rules for acceptable movie theater etiquette from the safety and comfort of the internet.

  1. When the movie starts, shut the hell up.
    This one should go without saying, but somehow, it doesn’t. Despite the “Please be quiet and courteous” messages on the screen prior to the movie, it seems like the worst and most common offense is talking, sometimes loudly and inappropriately, during the movie. Though I’m a big fan of “That’s what she said” humor, it can wait until later. You and your friends giggling during the scene where young Erik Lehnsherr gets yanked away from his parents in the Nazi death camp not only ruins the mood, but it’s incredibly obnoxious.
  2. You can go two hours without texting or phoning someone.
    I haven’t experienced anyone breaking this rule in recent memory, but I have seen someone text messages during the previews and it was very distracting… not from any click-click noises, but from the giant, illuminated spotlight that was his cell phone screen. If the audience had been comprised of people with moth-like tendencies, the text offender would have been instantly crushed. Keep the cell phones silent and pocketed.
  3. Snack unobtrusively.
    This one is a pet peeve. Mr. Banks is standing, somber and forlorn, at the end of a large table in the stately conference room of Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, having just received his termination notice, complete with the destruction of his hat and umbrella. He vainly struggles to produce the appropriately dignified response, but is suddenly interrupted by the loud crackling of cellophane wrap, the shaking of popcorn tubs, and the watery gurgle of oblivious soda suckers. Mood… ruined. If you need to dig through your popcorn tub or unwrap your Cookie Dough Bites, wait until there’s loud music or laughter… or at least a non-dramatic scene. It’s really not hard to do.
  4. Teach your kids acceptable behavior before the movie.
    This one is tough, especially considering that the biggest offenders probably aren’t aware of what constitutes acceptable movie behavior. Before you hit the theater with your children, make sure they know to be quiet, sit still, and watch the movie. Let them know what to expect and let them know that if they don’t follow the rules, they will be removed… then remove them if they don’t. It’s better that your movie experience is ruined than it is for you to let your child ruin the movie experience for everyone in the theater.
  5. Make sure your kids are old enough to understand the movie.
    This one is a quick tip. If you find that you need to constantly explain to your child what is happening in the movie, he’s too young to be at the theater watching that movie… and you’re violating rule number one. Leave the theater and wait for the DVD… and next time, don’t bring your 8-year-old to an R-rated horror movie like Blade 2.
  6. Pack out your trash.
    This always amazes me, but no longer surprises me. I walk into the theater and usually have my choice of seats (since I get there 20 minutes early). All the seats are up, the aisles are clear, and the cup holders are empty. After the movie, my seat is up, the aisle by my seat is clear, and my cup holder is empty. Looking around, however, I see snack boxes on the floor, half-empty sodas in the cup holders, and trash thrown everywhere as if the theater is a bussed restaurant… or a giant trash can. Take out your own trash. If you spill some popcorn, so be it. Accidents happen. But don’t leave your popcorn tubs and candy wrappers lying around for the cleanup crew. If you can’t stomach the intense, manual labor involved in carrying your trash down the aisle to the waiting trash bin (since it presumably exhausted you to carry them into the theater when they were full), perhaps you should leave a tip to the cleanup crew for taking care of your slovenliness.
  7. Be nice.
    This one is basically a catch-all rule. Show some courtesy and respect for people. Keep in mind that you’re not the only person who has come to the theater to enjoy a movie. There’s an entire theater of people who, even if they don’t say it directly to you, appreciate when you show enough consideration to let them enjoy the movie as much as you do.

People go to the movies as an escape… to revel in a grand form of entertainment that can make them laugh and cry, fill them with apprehension and glee, anger them and fill them with joy. They want the movie to take them away to a land of make-believe, where the good guys are always just a little bit quicker and the bad guys get covered in manure, where the picture-perfect couple tries to kill each other, but eventually teams up to defeat the mutual bad guys, and where the hero is smart enough to figure out the clues, outwit the Nazis, shut his eyes when appropriate, and still get the girl.

Seeing theatrical escapades on the big screen in a big theater with big sound still remains a terrific experience for me. Despite a few bad experiences with inconsiderate, oblivious movie-goers, I find the vast majority of the time I go to the theater, everyone is well-behaved, courteous (mostly), and respectful. If I’m looking to find something to warrant a complaint, I can always find it, but that’s not my outlook. It’s really only the blatant offenders that aggravate me… the ones who narrate the movie for their 3-year-old or exposit (in conversational volume) their views on each scene as it unfolds or decide that the best time to rip the cellophane off their Junior Mints is right after the old man’s wife dies and he’s staring, heartbroken, at her picture.

It takes just a minimal effort to show the consideration necessary to ensure everyone has a good time at the movies. It’s not difficult. It’s not confusing. It’s not physically demanding. But it is important.

…because we are not in your living room!

* It’s a movie quote.

Fireproof Could Have Been Good

fireproof02 I finally got around to watching the movie Fireproof, the Christian-themed movie with Kirk Cameron as a fire chief who is having marital problems that get solved by accepting Jesus. I’ll admit I was biased going in, not just because I knew it was a Christian-themed movie, but because I’d heard, from both atheists and Christians, that it was horrible. The most common criticism I’ve heard is that Kirk Cameron is just a terrible actor.

As it turns out, I didn’t dislike it nearly as much as I’d expected, and there were some parts that I actually enjoyed, so it wasn’t a total loss. Yes, Cameron’s acting was bad at times, but not in comparison to some of the other actors’ performances, and there were some funny moments and some touching moments that were handled nicely.

Here’s the quick summary of the plot. Caleb (Kirk Cameron) and his wife Erin (Catherine Holt) are having serious marital problems and a divorce is imminent. Caleb complains about Erin to his father, John (Harris Malcom), who had gone through similar problems that were solved by a 40-day “love dare.” He suggests that Caleb try it. Caleb gives his word to go through the entire 40 days, so his father gives him the “love dare” book which gives a new behavior to do each day… refrain from saying anything negative, do something nice, buy her something nice, etc. Each day builds upon the last. Around day 20, Caleb is ready to give up because it’s not working, but his father visits and inspires a religious conversion. The rest of the days play out with Caleb willingly working the 40-day plan. It ends happily and they renew their wedding vows.

Why does the movie fall short of what it could have been? My opinion is that it had the makings of a good Lifetime Channel type of movie, but fell apart because of the writing, the acting, and the incongruent messages.

The acting was admittedly sub-par, but throughout the movie, it was hard to tell whether it was the fault of the actors or of the writers. Some of the dialogue was painfully stilted and I kept thinking to myself that nobody talks like that. There are some scenes, however, that are perfectly believable… even touching… so I have to think that the actors had some talent, but were handicapped by the poor writing.

There are very few movies that I specifically notice the directing, and when I do, it’s invariably a bad thing. The first The Incredible Hulk (with Eric Bana) is a good example because the comic-book style scenes were jarring (and I disliked them immensely). I noticed the directing in Fireproof, too. At times, it seemed clumsy (“Why are they focusing on that?”) and at times, there were scenes included that added nothing to the movie (the brief interchange with the atheist). It wasn’t consistent throughout the movie, but, like The Incredible Hulk, it was jarring when it happened… and it happened enough to be annoying.

Some scenes, however, were fairly well done. There was a rescue scene where two girls were trapped in a car on a train track and a train was coming. The firemen were trying to move the car off the tracks and all the spectators joined in, getting it moved just in time… so “just in time” that one of the firefighters was close enough to the train to have his fire hat knocked off. That’s close… and the entire scene was both tense and touching. Cameron was believable barking orders and the camera work was well done.

Another rescue scene came later when Caleb was trying to get a little girl out of a burning house and hacked through the wooden floor with an ax, escaping just before the roof collapsed and something exploded. The tension was well handled and it was all believable during Cameron’s scenes. Outside the burning house, the seemingly random, Keystone-Cops-like chaos was another matter, but it wasn’t the focus of the scene, so it wasn’t a big distraction, though I did find myself briefly wondering why they weren’t more effective at helping Caleb.

Other scenes were well-done, too, and weren’t ruined by bad direction, acting, or writing. They were refreshing.

The Christian message seemed muddled and secondary… and somewhat ham-handed. Caleb tells his father, John, that he doesn’t want to hear about Jesus and his father doesn’t push it at first. The 40-day “love dare” book John sends him seems quite secular until we find out there’s a bible verse at the end of each day. However, other than the “Pray for your wife” day (which Caleb admits he skipped), all the actions seemed secular (make dinner, do something nice, say something nice, etc). It was unclear why religion was a necessary part.

Then came the day-20 visit by John where Caleb’s upcoming conversion is overtly set up by his complaining about Erin and angrily asking how he could possibly love someone who rejects him again and again. As he’s talking, his father is slowly walking around a small campsite and ends leaning against a cross. Caleb sees his father standing by the cross, and after his father delivers a bit of poorly written, clumsy dialogue right out of Cameron’s Way of the Master evangelizing program, gets it. He accepts Jesus, admitting that he needs Jesus’ forgiveness and that he will trust Jesus with his life.

After his conversion, Caleb becomes willing and eager to do all the rest of the “love dare” program, regardless of how Erin reacts. I assumed that the implication is that his change of heart came from his acceptance of Jesus. However, aside from a few insignificant scenes where Caleb shares his newly found inspiration, the movie continues with actions that could just as well be secular in nature. It’s almost as if the writers took a good love story and jammed in some Christian evangelizing so it would be a “Christian” movie.

There’s so much more I could say about this movie. There were some really funny parts (when Caleb makes coffee for Erin, the hospital girls, the oh-so-lame flowers) and some parts that were really painful to watch (interactions between Caleb and his father, the goosebump-inducing creepiness of the young doctor, the insulting stereotyping of women), but overall, it seemed like it was a promising, inspirational love story that was irrevocably marred by poor writing and a clumsy insertion of an incongruent Christian message.

But the fire trucks were cool.

Don’t mess with my movie.

Drop... your... sword.People who know me well know that my favorite movie of all time is The Princess Bride. Ever since college, it’s been at the top of my list and I think I’ve seen it well over 30 times, though I lost count a long time ago.

Whenever I had a bad day, I’d pop that movie in the VCR. If I was extra lucky, a good friend who also loved the movie would come over, too, and the two of us would sit there watching it and talking along with almost every single word of dialog. To anyone else, it would have been annoying beyond compare, but to the two of us, it was bliss. By the end of the movie, the bad day had been forgotten and the sunlit world of happy endings had taken over.

I’ve always had a knack for remembering lines from movies, songs, or scripts, something that came in handy during my participation in high school plays, musicals, and barbershop quartets. It’s also something that is a source of aggravation…either for me or for someone else who gets a movie quote wrong while I’m around.

“No. She didn’t say ‘like that.’ She said, ‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.'”

Believe me, if you’re not surrounded by friends who really like you (or by happy drunk people), that kind of thing gets eye rolls of derision.

I’ve learned (mostly) to keep it in check unless I’m just teasing a friend… or my boss. The only time it’s really tough to do is when someone screws up dialogue from a favorite movie; specifically The Princess Bride.

For instance…

Recently, my father-in-law was visiting (which is good, since I like my in-laws). He’s usually sleeping when I go to work, so I don’t get to see him in the mornings, but this particular morning, I was taking it easy and left the house later than usual, so he was up. As I was saying goodbye and was walking out the door, he said (in a Jewish Miracle Max voice), “Good luck stormin’ da castle!”

I smiled. I chuckled. I closed the door behind me. I got in my car. I started the engine. I pulled out of the driveway. I took a deep breath.

“It’s ‘HAVE FUN stormin’ da castle!'”

And that is how my knack for remembering movie dialogue creates aggravation for me.

But family harmony was preserved… which, like bacon, is a good thing.

Pixar’s UP Almost Ruined by Clueless Harpy

Pixar UPI love Pixar movies. Pixar has never made a movie that has even come close to disappointing me. They’re consistently funny, dramatic, beautiful, and even a little geeky if you know some behind-the-scenes stuff.

Given my penchant for their movies, I was excited to see UP. I planned it so my daughter and I could go see it in 3D on opening night at the best theater in our area. We showed up an hour early just to make sure we could get tickets and get a good seat dead smack in the center of the screen. It wasn’t nearly as crowded as I’d expected, so we had no trouble at all… perfect seats.

Except for one thing.

Two rows behind me, sitting slightly to the left, was a woman who evidently lives in her own self-centered, egotistical bubble of inconsideration and, in an almost conversational volume, kept up an inane, non-stop commentary of the movie’s events to her child, stopping only to indignantly shush him when he made any comments or noises of his own.


“Oh, look at that!”


“Oh, they parked right where he wanted.”

“Look at all the balloons!”

“Uh-oh. The balloons are popping.”

“The bird wants her babies.”

“Awww… ” (again)

“Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s so clever!”

“Oh, the poor dog.”

“He’s sad.”

“Awww…” (oh yes… over, and over, and over…)

I’m very non-confrontational, so for a long time, I sat there and tried to ignore her. At one point, I got frustrated enough that I turned around and looked at her, displaying the universally accepted “shut the hell up” expression. Sadly, we all had the 3D glasses on, so the laser-focused, burning heat of my baleful glare didn’t have its fully intended effect.

A short while later, I took a page from her own playbook and turned around and shushed her. Sadly, the shush had a lasting effect of about 60 seconds. In retrospect, there’s a good chance she thought I was shushing her son. I think she was completely unaware of the extreme obnoxiousness of her behavior.

I really should have turned around and said something like, “Lady, would you please knock off the running commentary so the rest of us can enjoy the movie.” I probably would have gotten applause from the people sitting around me.

As it was, it took a lot away from the movie for both me and my daughter. I still loved the movie, though, which is a testament to Pixar’s genius, and I love going to real movie theaters. I really think, however, that it’s not the high prices of movie tickets, popcorn and drinks that will lead to the demise of theaters. It’s inconsiderate, rude, obnoxious, graceless, ignorant people (like the clueless harpy I encountered) that will bring them down.

Next time, I’ll speak up.